Saturday, January 13, 2007


I thought this was interesting.

The Calf's Path
Sam Walter Foss (1895)

One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead;
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed--do not laugh--
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And this before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed this zigzag calf about
And o'er crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the Calf-path of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do,
They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf.

Ah, many things this tale might teach -
But I am not ordained to preach.

1 comment:

gerbmom said...

Great poem. Thanks for sharing. Reminds me a little bit of this:

There was once a teacher of great faith and insight. Several disciples gathered round him to learn from his wisdom. It so happened that each time the small community met in prayer, the cat would come in and distract them. The teacher ordered the cat tied whenever the community prayed. Eventually the great one died, but the cat continued to be tied up at worship time. When the cat died, another cat was bought to make sure that the teacher’s wishes were still faithfully observed. Centuries passed, and learned treatises were written by scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed …

(Post on NextReformation - an anecdote by Mike Riddell.)